Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Staying with My In-Laws

The Dream:
I am visiting my in-laws. They give me their bedroom for the night. I am given a single bed next to where they normally sleep: in a “nest” on the floor that’s big enough for two.

I thought of my in-laws, and the gifts they have given me, as I worked in my studio yesterday. As I opened the sky-light I thought of my father-in-law, who had helped install it. I thought of both as I used a paper cutter Clark brought back for me from their house after his mother went into assisted living, and I thought of her again as I used some of her china-painting pigments. In the dream my husband’s family made room for me in the most intimate room of their house, a beautiful symbol of their acceptance, and I am grateful. Although one is gone and the other near death they stay with me, as in the dream I stay with them.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Symbolic Meaning of Easter

Just as we have personal dreams, religious myths embody group dreams or shared symbolic content, what Jung calls the collective unconscious. Looking at Easter from this point of view, I see a marvelous tangle of meaning: the one I’ll focus on here is how we participate psychically in the myth of resurrection. First there is the sacrificial death, symbolizing the death of my individual, potentially antisocial desires for the greater good of the group. As I contemplate the god dying for the good of the group, I participate by sacrificing some of my selfishness for the good of others.  Once I’ve acknowledged the “bad” parts of myself, symbolized by the god going down into hell, I’m ready for resurrection as  purified and perfected (or at least somewhat improved) member of society.

At its most primitive level, this yearly resurrection coincides with the rebirth of nature in the northern hemisphere. Ancient fertility rites lie not too deeply below the many-layered observance. Participating in the fertility of nature gives me food, or sustenance, and, with our own propagation, carries the life force forward. At the spiritual level, the myth celebrates our human attainment of consciousness: we have transcended our animal nature and been reborn into a higher, godlike, level of awareness.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Daughter’s Haircut

I’ve started a new dream journal, which always feels like a fresh beginning. I had hoped to have an interesting dream to kick off the event, but the little I remember of this one doesn’t seem so—at least it didn’t until I thought about it. Now I can see the dream is pointing out the part of myself I need to stick up for.

The Dream: My daughter has a new haircut. I’m talking to a woman who works at the salon, who tells me that my daughter was charged $300.00 but should have paid only $90.00. I say I will tell her; the salon worker doesn’t want me to. She wants the shop to retain its ill-gotten gain.

Hair, coming out of my head, represents my ideas; the new hairdo tells me something is changing. Since it is my child whose hair is different, the dream points out that I’m coming to a new understanding of the role my inner child plays in my contemporary life. I feel she has paid too dearly (been overcharged) for her creativity (new ideas).  I protest her mistreatment, but as far as this dream goes I do nothing but threaten to squeal. Since I can see this mistreatment is unfair, I hope that in a future dream I will fight harder for my child’s rights.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Crows

The Dream:
Another gloomy dream from the anniversary of my mother’s death. Three women wear the same boat-necked blouse, but one has different trousers. All will be okay if the 3rd woman gets the same trousers as the other two. She does, but this does not lift the pervading gloom. Large black birds begin to circle, as ominous the crows in the Van Gogh painting made shortly before the artist’s suicide. I try to change the birds into a different sort of bird, something less threatening, I but don’t succeed.

Interpretation: The number three is important in this dream. According to Bruno Bettelheim “numbers stand for people: family situations and relations.” One stands for me, two for a couple, and three for a person in relation to his parents.* In this dream, all wear the same boat-necked blouse. Because of the gloomy overtones here, the boat evokes the river crossing of the shades of the dead in Greek mythology. The three people are me and my dead parents. The trousers are not the same in the beginning of the dream. One (me) has different trousers. Two (the couple, my parents) have the same. I think all will be okay if our trousers are the same, but my unconscious acknowledges this will mean my death (the circling black birds). I can’t change the reality of our separation, even though I try.

*Bruno Bettleheim, "The Uses of Enchantment,The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales," Vintage Books Edition, Random House, New York, May 2010, 142- 3.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What is Your Personal Mythology?

This past weekend I attended a seminar at the Dream Institute of Northern California given by Fariba Bogzaran and Stanley Krippner. The topic for the day was dreams that are out of the ordinary, such as lucid, precognitive, spiritual, and so on. The final topic of the session was called “Dreams and Personal Mythology,” and that’s the part of the seminar I’m going to focus on.

My personal mythology is the story I tell myself about my life. My mythology might be helpful: “I’m a wiz at math and science.” “I usually get what I want.” “Men find me very attractive”. “I make friends easily.” “I am a deeply spiritual person.” Or it might be harmful: “No one likes me.” “I can’t control my weight.” “I can never do anything right.” “I’ll never be able to _______.” “I’m selfish and mean.” Clearly, what we tell ourselves has a pervasive impact on our lives, and yet we are usually not aware of these endlessly replaying scripts. Bogzaran and Krippner led the group in an exercise to discover these secret messages.

I’ll briefly describe the process in case you’d like to give it a try. To begin, choose one of your dreams. Close your eyes and relax, and after a few moments re-enter the dream. After you experience your dream for a while notice the emotion you are feeling, then notice what part of your body that emotion relates to.

Think of a past waking life experience which evokes the same feeling. Take this information back into your dream, and observe any parallels. This meeting of conscious (waking life) and unconscious (dream) material will help you to discover your personal myth. There are two basic forms of personal myth: the descriptive tells you how things are with you, and the prescriptive tells you what to do.

For more information on this topic Stanley Krippner and David Feinstein have written a book called “The Mythic Path: Discovering the Guiding Stories of Your Past -- Creating a Vision for Your Future.”  For further information on unusual dream types Bogzaran and Krippner have written “Extraordinary Dreams and How to Work with Them.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In Over My Head

The Dream: I am on a chaise longue, reclining next to a couple. The woman sits closest to me, her partner on her other side. She is pregnant, a subtle bulge detectable beneath her blanket. She looks tired and a little frightened. This will be her 5th or 6th child. She has had most delivered vaginally, I’m informed, and one by c-section. Her partner is determined that this baby will be delivered vaginally. The doctor squirms a little; he isn’t as sure. This pregnancy was unplanned. An amorous moment caught the couple off-guard.

The woman appears to be in her early 40s. She has dark hair and a care-worn face. Her hair is short, and she resembles my mother. She seems to be thinking, “Can I pull this off? One More time? Am I in so deeply over my head I’ll never find my way out?”

Interpretation: I had this dream, and the one I’ll post later in the week, on the anniversary of my mother’s death. She was in her early 40s when she contracted diabetes, a disease she lived with for 45 years. It ultimately robbed her of her eyesight. In the dream her concern about her pregnancy at age 40 symbolizes the new concern she had at that age in waking life: living with a progressively debilitating illness. The repeated pregnancies reflect my feeling that she had too much to bear. I cannot understand the feelings I have about my mother's illness with my intellect; I'm in "over my head."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Evaluation

The Dream: Clark has entered a project in some sort of judged event, and he is receiving recognition. His piece has been evaluated, with people writing comments on colored pieces of paper that they paste onto a light pink support. The comments are in different hands and follow curved paths, creating something like an abstract piece of art. I am impressed and happy that his project has generated so much interest.

Interpretation: Dreams let us know we are on the right track sometimes, especially if we are not quite aware of it in waking life. Clark, who represents my animus (the part of me that takes on the world), is having some success. I am pleased.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Chinese Bride

The Dream: I’m in a foreign country, in a theater. A bell rings and we start to go to our seats. We see the locals, who are Chinese, scrambling and rushing. We realize that in this culture it’s considered rude if you are not seated when the bell rings.

Up from a trap door emerges a Chinese bride. She is wearing a white on white brocade outfit. The top part has the look of a traditional jacket with its small stand collar and covered buttons, but untraditionally has a high fitted waist and peplum. The skirt has a very long train. Later I wear this outfit.

Interpretation: A bride symbolizes a new life that is about to begin, and at the time of the dream I was about to begin showing art in a new gallery. I look at this experience from the outside, like a foreigner, and the social error I commit in the dream (not being in my seat when the bell rings) reflects my anxiety about my performance in this new venue. As the dream progresses my psyche begins to realize that I am the one who will be “on stage.” When I merge with the bride, I am accepting both the new adventure and some previously foreign aspect of myself.